Watch Live: 8 GOP Presidential Candidates Battle For A Participation Trophy

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Aug 24, 2023 - 02:45 AM

Eight Republican candidates gather on stage to battle it out for the world's greatest participation trophy as former President Trump - the far and away frontrunner in the race - is interviewed simultaneously by Tucker Carlson on X.

Candidates needed to meet certain requirements set by the RNC to be able to participate in Wednesday’s debate. In addition to polling requirements, to qualify, they needed at least 40,000 separate donors to their presidential campaign committee, with at least 200 from 20 or more states and territories.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), conservative entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum qualified for the debate.

We note that Burgum injured himself playing basketball on Tuesday, his campaign confirmed, and it was unclear if that would prevent him from participating.

DNC chair Jamie Harrison on Wednesday said that the first GOP primary debate will be a circus while briefing reporters ahead of it in Milwaukee.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be a debate but more like a circus,” he said, adding that all the candidates in the field, including former President Trump, are “extreme.”

Of course, no one asked him if President Biden will be having a debate? RFK Jr is ready.

Watch the debate live here (due to start at 2100ET):

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As The Epoch Times' Nathan Worcester detailed earlier,as the first Republican presidential debate approaches, many may wonder how the various hopefuls are getting ready—and how the American people will receive their pitches against the backdrop of the absence of former president Donald J. Trump.

In a series of interviews, campaign representatives and knowledgeable analysts shared insights on the coming spectacle.

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during the Moms for Liberty Joyful Warriors national summit at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown in Philadelphia on June 30, 2023. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

DeSantis, Ramaswamy, and 'Trump in Absentia'

Last week, a debate memo published on the website of a firm linked to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis offered some initial clues as to what observers should expect at the event, which will take place in Milwaukee on Aug. 23.

The memo suggested Mr. DeSantis could "hammer Vivek Ramaswamy in a response."

"Take a sledge-hammer to Vivek Ramaswamy: 'Fake Vivek' Or 'Vivek the Fake,'" it reads.

In addition, it advises him to attack both President Joe Biden and the media repeatedly and "defend Donald Trump in absentia in response to a Chris Christie attack."

Republican presidential candidate, former Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks at the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) summit in Arlington, Va., on July 17, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The Pence campaign did not respond to requests for comment from The Epoch Times.

When asked how Mr. Ramaswamy is preparing for the Aug. 23 debate, a spokesperson for his campaign directed The Epoch Times to a 45-second clip the candidate recorded with ABC News' Kelsey Walsh.

Mr. Ramaswamy told Ms. Walsh he didn't want to be "overly prepared."

He said the event would be his "first time ever" participating in such a primary debate, setting him apart from his competitors.

"It'll be something of a warmup for me," Mr. Ramaswamy added.

The millennial entrepreneur and anti-woke investor generated a little more pre-debate publicity on Aug. 21, posting an RFK, Jr.-style video of himself playing tennis shirtless, with the caption, "Three solid hours of debate prep this morning."

Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy flashes the Nixonian "V for Victory" sign at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, Calif., on Aug. 18, 2023. (Screenshot)

Trump's 'Smart Move'

Mr. Trump's absence from Wednesday's debate, and prospective appearance with Mr. Carlson on another medium, has elicited a range of responses.

While Mr. Christie accused his competitor of "running scared," a Ramaswamy's campaign representative told The Epoch Times that the former president "should do whatever he wants!"

"Having counter-programming during the debate is a smart move by both Carlson and Trump since it will help distract from the debate and attract attention, which is their goal," said Kevin Tober, a news analyst with the Media Research Center, in an email interview with The Epoch Times.

"We can expect Trump’s absence to loom large over the debate. Many of the questions, if not most, will end up having to do with him or about him," Mr. Tober predicted.

Former President Donald Trump leaves the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 12, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University, said he thinks Mr. Trump will ultimately "overshadow everything the seven candidates on the stage do, and thus will undermine the ability of all of them to achieve their respective goals due to the fewer number of eyeballs watching the debate and the less intense media coverage of the debate."

"At the end of the day, the Republican candidate Democrats most want to face in 2024 is Donald Trump, since they believe Biden can beat Trump but would have a much more difficult time beating DeSantis, Scott, Haley, etc." Mr. Jones told The Epoch Times via email.

Timothy Head, executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, told The Epoch Times that Mr. Trump's rivals for the presidential slot are in a delicate position.

"Not only do you attack Trump at your own peril of being retaliated against by Trump himself, but even more importantly for the other candidates is trying to court Trump voters," Mr. Head said in a telephone interview.

Both Mr. Tober and Mr. Jones expect Mr. DeSantis to be the most mercilessly scrutinized candidate on stage.

"Due to some recent missteps from the DeSantis campaign, you can expect some tough questions to come his way. That’s expected, though, since he’s the leading candidate among those participating," Mr. Tober said.

Mr. Jones said he anticipates Mr. DeSantis "will try to set himself clearly apart as the only viable option to Trump without being seen as overtly anti-Trump."

He suggested that Mr. DeSantis's rivals will go after the governor "with the goal of freeing up his donors and voters"—a prediction in line with what other insiders have told The Epoch Times about the intra-GOP scramble for the presidential nomination.

"The lane is for Trump and a non-Trump candidate. That's an oversimplification, but sometimes a simple story is right," Daron Shaw, a presidential campaign veteran and professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, told The Epoch Times in a July interview.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) speaks at the Heritage Foundation's Leadership Summit in National Harbor, Md., on April 20, 2023. (Terri Wu/The Epoch Times)

According to Mr. Head, a very big question will loom over the debate: "Which candidate can establish themselves as the Trump alternative?"

He said he's paying close attention to which candidates succeed in connecting with the electorate.

That holds true even for candidates who have strong records on the Faith & Freedom Coalition's central issues—parental rights, religious liberty, and abortion.

While he argued that Mr. Pence's "political and policy backgrounds could hardly be any stronger" for religious voters, he acknowledged that there is a "personality equation" as well.

'Not Afraid of Hard Questions'

Other 2024 hopefuls shared some details about what to expect in Milwaukee with The Epoch Times.

An advisor to former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley told The Epoch Times that the candidate has "been preparing for six months on the campaign trail answering unscripted questions from voters across New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina."

"She’s not afraid of the hard questions. She’ll always fight for what she believes in," the advisor added.

Republican presidential candidate and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 12, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

A campaign spokesperson for Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told The Epoch Times that the presidential hopeful "will share his positive, conservative message on the debate stage in Milwaukee."

"This debate is another opportunity to connect with millions of voters across the country and show why Tim has faith in America and why he is the strongest candidate to beat Joe Biden," the spokesperson continued.

The Epoch Times contacted the presidential campaign of North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. The campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Jackson Richman contributed to this report